Harlequin vs Merle (Breed Info, Cost, Temperament)

Harlequins and merles are often mistaken for one another because they bear several similarities. Both species are genetically alike and are often produced from the same litter. Despite their physical and genetic similarities, both breeds are different.

This guide will look at the Harlequin and Merles and everything you need to know about them. If you are new to dogs and can’t decide between both breeds or often find it hard to differentiate them, this guide is for you.

Breed Information

Merle breeds are aptly named after the merle gene, which they uniquely possess. The Merle gene manifests in coat colour, causing discolouration in the dog’s fur.

The gene causes patches of black or blue fur over the base colour. Merles appear in several dog breeds, including the Great Dane, often confused with the Harlequin. The merle gene is denoted by the letter (M) in genetics.

In Great Danes, an extreme case of merle sees dogs born with two merle genes (MM).

This condition results in sensory defects and a pigment defect that sees the dog appear white. Most dogs suffering from this condition are often referred to as Merlequins.

They are essentially white dogs with little merle spots on them. Double merles usually have some defects, either blind or deaf, or their sight and hearing are somewhat impaired.

The Harlequins is a merle that contains a harlequin gene.

The breed contains one haploid merle gene and one merle gene. Harlequins are typically white-coloured, featuring black and grey patches with blue patches sometimes appearing.

The colour patterns of a harlequin are rare, mostly found in Great Danes.

Much like merles, they are multicoloured and share a lot of similarities with them, both genetic and physical. In addition to the merle gene (M), harlequins possess a harlequin gene, denoted generically as (H).

The result shows harlequins with a white background and dark patches, much like merles.

However, harlequins are much rarer than merles, appearing in only two breeds, Great Danes and Beaucerons. While they look like merles, harlequins look more like dalmatians.


As both merles and Harlequins are similar, their prices tend to fall in similar ranges.

With Harlequins being rare, their prices tend to be slightly higher than that of merles.

Both dogs are rare and thus are more expensive than other dogs, making them more expensive.

The Merle Great Dane costs between $600 and $3,000. Harlequins, on the other hand, cost between $1,500-$3,000. Both dogs are well over the average cost for a dog which is $1,500.

Factors Affecting The Cost Of Dogs

The cost of Harlequins and Merles varies based on different factors. You may find one cheap under certain conditions or pay extravagantly for one. Some of the factors that influence the cost of a dog include:


The younger the dog, the more expensive it will be. Younger puppies are more flexible, easier to train, and have a blank slate.


Each breeder is different and will charge their rates for dogs according to their efforts.

Breeders also charge according to their reputations. A breeder of much repute will charge more than one of none. Reputable breeders usually charge more because they have meticulous processes which ensure a quality dog.


The greater the demand for a dog breed, the more it will cost.

The same principle applies to the availability of the breed. Some breeds are rarer than others or require special matches to produce, which raises their price.


Merles and Harlequins have dominating physical presence, which is necessary for a guard dog, but that isn’t all that is needed.

Most dog owners believe that coat colour and temperament are related, prompting the choice of Merles and Harlequin as guard dogs. Temperament and coat colour have no relationship, but breeds are fierce and aggressive where needed.

Merles are friendly and calm most of the time, making them great family dogs.

They are great with children and tend to be playful. Merles extend their friendliness to other animals, especially those raised along with them. They are also highly intelligent, making them easy to train.

On the other hand, they boast the same physical presence and friendliness but are rarely aggressive. Harlequins are generally a playful breed and sometimes don’t act like their size would suggest.

They also don’t know their strength, often placing their full weight on an unsuspecting owner.

While coat colour and breeds may be used to predict a dog’s temperament, the only thing that matters is the individual. Each dog is unique, and while external factors may have an influence, the individual character is most important.

Differences Between A Harlequin And A Merle

With so many similarities between a merle and a harlequin, it can be difficult to tell them apart. Both dogs are the same to the untrained eyes, but that isn’t the case. The differences between merles and Harlequins aren’t always visible, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Coat Colour

Both dogs have patches of fur with different colours from the base, but Harlequins added one key feature.

Harlequins have white colour over their fur in between their merle patches, making the base colour white. A Harlequin is a white dog with merle patterns. On the other hand, Merles have grey base colours with patches of black or blue fur.


While the physical differences may be disguised or difficult to diagnose, there is no such case with genes.

Merles and Harlequins possess the merle gene, but the harlequin has a special gene, the harlequin gene. You can tell them apart by the presence of the Harlequin gene; one possesses it, while the other doesn’t.

Is Harlequin A Type Of Merle?

Yes, a Harlequin is a type of merle. The defining trait of a Harlequin is the (H) gene which only appears in Merles.

As is evident from the fact that Harlequins are mistaken for Merles, they are remarkably similar physically and genetically. However, the (H) gene is inherited separately from the (M) gene.

Most people sometimes find it hard to differentiate between Merles and Harlequins.

The differences can be so subtle that it’ll require a test to differentiate them. Some Merles, under certain conditions, can appear like Harlequins. A single Harlequin gene is powerful enough to manifest the trait once the Merle gene is present.

Interestingly, the Harlequin gene is useless on its own, requiring a merle gene to manifest. Once a dog has both merle and harlequin genes, it will most likely be a Harlequin.

While rare, a dog can have both the merle and harlequin genes without being Harlequin. Additionally, dogs that are merle but only possess red pigments cannot manifest Harlequin.

Can You Breed A Harlequin With A Merle?

Never breed a Harlequin with a Merle. All Harlequins must have a merle gene, and breeding two dogs with Merle genes is bad. It isn’t physically impossible to breed a harlequin and a merle, but the result will be unpleasant.

Any offspring from matching a Harlequin and a Merle will be unhealthy if at all it manifests.

Breeding a Merle and Harlequin will result in a phenomenon known as Double Merle. Double Merle dogs face several health challenges, including blindness and Deafness.

No double merle truly escapes this fate, even if they aren’t completely blind or deaf. I

t is cruel to subject a dog to such a life; hence it is prevented by not breeding a Merle and a Harlequin.

Interestingly, A double Merle can live for up to 10 years. The numerous health problems will likely shorten this expectancy significantly, but it can live that long.

The double merle is the dog equivalent of sickle cell, with the dog always sick.

What Is A Ghost, Merle?

A ghost merle has little or no visible merle characteristics. With no visible Merle characteristics, these dogs are often considered non-Merles.

The merle patterns are hidden or overshadowed by other genes, causing the dog to appear normal. While such a dog looks normal genetically, it is still a Merle.

Ghost merles are often called cryptic or phantom merles. Identifying a ghost merle is difficult with the typical indicators absent or difficult to identify.

The most common way to identify them is through their eyes which still look blue like a Merle’s. While breeding a ghost merle with a Merle or harlequin still carries the risk of double merles, the risk is reduced. It is, however, still not advised to breed them.

Are Merle Dogs Unhealthy?

No, merle dogs aren’t unhealthy. Only double merle dogs are naturally unhealthy, with merles living as normal dogs. Any beliefs that tag Merles as unhealthy are false, but many people buy into them.

A merle dog is as healthy as any other dog and has the same chance of falling sick.

Any breeder who knows what they are doing won’t breed a Merle with a Harlequin. Off the breeder’s reputation, you can tell if you’re getting a healthy puppy or one with health problems.

You may need to worry about potential health challenges, but your care for the puppy will be the deciding factor.

Fun fact: A merle puppy can have a genetic defect, but it has nothing to do with them being merle.

Genetic defects can arise for several reasons, most of which have nothing to do with a dog’s merle status. Don’t attribute it to the breed if you have a Merle puppy with a genetic defect.

Final Call: Harlequin vs Merle (Breed Info, Cost, Temperament)

Harlequins and Merles are dog breeds that both occur in Great Danes and are similar.

The similarities between both breeds often cause them to be mistaken for one another. Most people have superstitious beliefs about their health, but these beliefs are rarely correct.

Both breeds make excellent guard presence, but merles are generally more suited to the task while harlequins are more for show.

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